By Mike Lean
On December 31st Bluewater Radio celebrates 20 years on the air.
Back in 2001 Bluewater Community Radio started broadcasting with a meager 5 watt signal, and developmental licence, from a small basement studio, just a few doors down from its present home. With a handful of enthusiastic volunteers, Mid Western Ontario’s first Non Profit Community Radio station was born.
A Community Radio Stations purpose is to give the community a voice, by giving local people access to the airwaves, as well as being training facility for anyone with an interest in broadcasting – at the same time promoting everything local.
It’s also able to support and promote local business with attractive advertising and sponsorship packages which are usually out of the reach of many businesses. Local Radio is able to give advertisers a bigger bang for their buck, at the same time while keeping the advertising dollars in their community. Community Stations are not in direct competition with commercial stations, as Commercial Radio Stations target a certain demographic with a single format. A Community Station has to include the whole community from ages from 9 until 90, as a public broadcaster similar to the CBC, Community Radio Stations are a local alternative.
Andrew McBride was appointed Station Manager in April 2003, with his strong leadership style, he introduced structure to the station, and immediately applied to Industry Canada to relocate the transmitter from a small 65ft tower at the former JDSS High School to the Hanover Hospital Communications tower. The CRTC granted the station a full licence and a power increase to 250 watts in 2006, the station then relocated its transmitter to the Hartman Communications Tower on the east hill in Brockton. The station was then able to increase its coverage to serve most of Mid Western Ontario.
To date the station has trained over 100 volunteers with no previous broadcast experience and hosted over 20 Co op students in placements from local high schools. Many have gone on to broadcast college and on to pursue careers in broadcasting.
In October 2007 the station moved to its current location on 10th Street with its prominent window studio. Its location, the to see and be seen, and open door policy has made the station a center point in Hanover’s downtown.
The daytime format is an adult contemporary mix of Pop, Oldies and Country with a minimum 40% Canadian content. Evenings and weekends the station broadcasts speciality programming, Blues, Bluegrass, Jazz, World, Talk, Rock, Indie, Scottish Music, Oldie’s and Country music.
As part of its CRTC mandate, the station broadcasts 6 hours of Christian music on Sunday. A large proportion of the programming is either produced live or in house, with a few shows being exchanged with other stations. Bluewater Radio has two syndicated shows being aired on numerous stations worldwide. The Sounds of Scotland Show with Andy Mack and Solid Gold Country, with Chris Young – both these shows have brought great recognition to the station internationally.
The station has faced many challenges over the years, latterly being how Covid 19 which affected nearly all businesses and community groups. However, with strong roots, solid leadership, the station has continued to grow and develop. Bluewater Radio’s management structure has now been copied by many new and developing Community Stations across Canada.
Currently, Bluewater Radio has over 30 volunteers; many have been with the station for over 15 years. New volunteers are always welcome as there are many different ways people can volunteer, even without being on the air. Partnerships have been the backbone of the stations success. The Hanover Library with the Book Club, Launch Pad’s Summer Radio Camp, Bluewater School Board News, and Crimestoppers. At Noon and 5pm 7 days per week the station broadcasts Funeral Announcements provided by area Funeral Homes. The Community Connection airs hourly and promotes upcoming events for local non-profit groups at no cost.
Bluewater Radio is also the area’s Emergency Notification Station and is directly linked to the Ontario Emergency Center. In the event of an emergency or disaster, an alert message automatically overrides what’s airing and broadcasts the emergency message.
Apart from the stations ability to do remote broadcasts at events and from stores, one of the highlights of the year has been the annual Hanover Santa Claus parade. For the past 14 years, the station has broadcast a live running commentary as it passes the studio window; this has been much appreciated by shut-ins and those unable to attend…
Bluewater Radio is an active member of The National Association of Community Radio Stations which represents over 80 Community stations in Canada. The station is seen as a leader, and is currently involved in mentoring 3 radio stations in Canada and one in the UK.
As Bluewater Radio enters its 21st year we have to thank the local business for their loyalty over the past 20 years. We will continue to have an open door policy for the whole community, giving anyone with an interest in public broadcasting a voice.
To celebrate the station’s 20th Anniversary, Bluewater Radio is having an Open House on Saturday January 1st 2022 from 11am – 3pm. Come and view the studios, and meet the team.
There will also be prizes and giveaways.
Covid Protocols will be in place.